by Dennis Dalman
Lauren Jaenisch burst into tears as soon as she heard the news her Sartell Sabre gymnastics varsity team had won at state competition, but her tears were conflicted – tears of joy, tears of sadness.
Joy because they’d won; sadness because it was the last time she and her teammates would compete together. Her teammates felt the same way – a swirl of tangled emotions.
On March 27, the nine-member varsity team bused down to Champlin Park High School for the state competition versus seven other teams. They’d earlier won the sectional meet, beating St. Cloud Tech High School, so they were antsy-eager for a go at state.
The varsity-team members are Mackenna Hauck, Lauren Jaenisch, Marley Michaud, Ella Schwartz, Ivy Senn, Ella Simmons, Morgan Weber, Hailey Westrup and Carly Yang.
When they triumphed over Forest Lake as state first-place winners, they erupted in cheers, hugging and grinning, shouting and sobbing. And with good reason. It was the first time ever (in 17 years) that a Sartell gymnastics team took top state honors. In the last two years, the current team placed second, and four years ago they tied for third. They knew in their hearts it was time to win tops.
This time around, it was an especially sweet win, frosting on the cake, because two on the team scored individual wins – Marley Michaud for all-around performance and Carly Yang second place for her excellence on the gymnasts’ bar.
The three varsity-team captains, all in their senior year, shared their reactions with the Sartell Newsleader earlier this week. They have trained and competed together through thick and thin for the past four years.
Because of Covid-19 restrictions, the gymnasts did not know they’d won until they were back on their school bus. As they intently watched a computer, which live-streamed the judges’ announcements, instant elation filled the bus when the team was announced tops.
Then they ran out of the bus to tell their parents, parked in vehicles in the parking lot.
“I was so excited,” said Emma Schwartz, daughter of Kim and Dave Schwartz of Sartell.
“We finally did it! Everything and all that work for the past year paid off. It was such a special moment to share with teammates because we had been together so long. We ended our senior year with that win, and it was the best meet ever.”
At the state meet, Schwartz competed in all four gymnastics categories: Floor, Beam, Vault and Bar.
After graduation, Schwartz will study at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. She is not yet sure of her major but will definitely be a member of the running track program.
Carly Yang, daughter of Cristen and Henry Yang of Sartell, was stunned, happy about the win.
“Our team had never won first, but we’d come so close to winning, and we did,” she said. “To hear we won on my last season on the team made it so special. All that anticipation and lots of hard work and all that time and determination. It worked. We won first place. My mom burst into tears. And my dad was super-proud.”
After graduation, Yang will study at the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. She doesn’t plan to continue in gymnastics, however.
“No, it’s time to quit,” she said, noting how much she has enjoyed her years as a gymnast and her hard work with her teammates. “But no, I won’t continue it. My body won’t be able to take it anymore.”
Lauren Jaenisch, daughter of Mary and Brian Jaenisch of Sartell, competed in the “Floor” and the “Bar” categories. She shared the same sentiments as her friends and teammates.
“It was really exciting,” she said. “The beam rotation was a little bit iffy, but we went all out and gave it our all. We knew we did a good job and deserved it, but – still – it was so exciting!”
Like teammate Schwartz, Jaenisch competed in all four categories of competition at the state meet, even though she did so with a taped ankle due to a previous sprain.
Schwartz will major in nursing and minor in Hispanic studies at the College of St. Benedict, starting this fall.